Imagine a building that harvests its own energy, collects its own water and is free of environmental pollutants such as chemicals or foreign materials known to have an adverse effect on the building or its occupants. Sound impossible? Welcome to the Living Building Challenge.
Launched in 2006, Living Building Challenge (LBC), or “Challenge” as it has become known, is a building certification program that guides the most advanced execution of sustainability in the built environment and is an aggressive opportunity for building projects to move far beyond “being less bad” to being truly regenerative. It has inspired and motivated rapid and significant change in green construction projects all over North America and beyond, making the movement one of the fastest growing building standards in the world.
But how do you design and build a “Living Building”?
Let’s start with two very unique features of the “Challenge”— 1) It is a matter of proven performance rather than an anticipated outcome. Actual building performance metrics are required, unlike LEED, where modeled performance is accepted. Therefore, projects must be operational for at least 12 consecutive months prior to evaluation for certification. 2) The core framework of the Challenge comprises seven performance categories, known as Petals, focusing on Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. These Petals are subdivided into a total of 20 supporting Imperatives that are strategies to support the process of building sustainably. All 20 Imperatives must be met to achieve Full Living Building certification. This compilation of Imperatives can be applied to almost every conceivable building project, of any scale and any location. It can be a new building or an existing structure.
There are two additional types of certification that can be achieved within the Challenge. These certifications are Petal Certification and Net Zero Energy Certification. Petal Certification is given to a project that achieves at least three petals and Net Zero Energy Certification requires the Net Zero Positive Imperative in order to represent the highest levels of achievement in energy reduction.